Opera for the Rest of Us

I wrote the following post for my good friend Tasha at Tasha Does Tulsa. We attended Tulsa Opera's production of Gaetano Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore last weekend, and Tasha scored two tickets to give away to one lucky reader. Check out the post below and then head over to www.tashadoestulsa.com to enter.

Every time I attend a Tulsa Opera production, I forget for a little while that I’m in Tulsa. TO presents magnanimous works, attracting the best singers, directors and conductors that the industry has to offer. And as I watch (and hear) these amazing voices, performing in front of such elaborate sets and in such exquisite costumes, I imagine that I’m in someplace much larger and more cosmopolitan than Tulsa.

(For some reason, I sometimes still think of Tulsa as being a much smaller city than it actually is, even though I know better.)

For those who are opera fans, Tulsa Opera never disappoints, and its final production of the 2008-2009 season is no exception. For those who’ve never attended an opera before, this weekend is a perfect time to start, as Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore is a wonderful first-time opera.

In it, Nemorino (Gregory Schmidt) is a shy, na├»ve peasant living in the Italian countryside. He’s in love with Adina (Mari Moriya), a stubborn landowner who toys with his emotions and mocks his affection. Desperate to win her heart, Nemorino purchases an elixir of love from a traveling doctor (read: quack) named Dulcamara (Terry Hodges). The elixir is nothing but wine, but it fills Nemorino with a confidence he’s never known, and is he able to act aloof and unconcerned around Adina, sure that she will fall in love with him soon.

Adina, insulted that Nemorino has taken his attention from her, agrees to marry the sergeant of a military regimen that’s made a stop in their town. Belcore (Christopher Feigum) is a conceited, philandering fool, but Adina agrees to the wedding only to get a reaction out of Nemorino. It works.

Nemorino, desperate for money and more elixir, joins Belcore’s army for a stipend, which he quickly spends on a bottle of elixir the size of his torso. Meanwhile, the ladies of the village get word that Nemorino’s rich uncle has died and left him a millionaire, and they flock after him, leaving Nemorino and Dulcamara to believe that the love potion has worked.

In the end, Adina buys back Nemorino’s contract, saving him from war, and declares her love for them. The two marry, and everything ends happily ever after – which is so unlike and opera.

But that’s why it’s a fantastic show for those who think they don’t like opera or have no interest in the art form.

This is a comedy, written in the bel canto (“beautiful singing”) style, and it is sweet, sincere and amusing. The music and the singing are absolutely beautiful, and the singers are not only wonderful singers but actors as well. The show is rife with nuanced comedy, with every expression and gesture perfectly timed for a genuine laugh. At the same time, the show is sincere and poignant. It is a wonderful, feel-good show that makes for a perfect date night.

It’s also fast-paced and, for an opera, really short. The two hours you spend in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center’s Chapman Music Hall, fly by.

And if it sounds like a good time to you, you’re in luck. TO presents L’Elisir D’Amore this Friday, May 1 at 7:30pm and Sunday, May 3, at 2:30pm. And the company has given Tasha Does Tulsa two tickets for Friday evening’s performance. Enter to win at www.tashadoestulsa.com.